Amazon set its sights on Google Thursday by introducing CloudSearch, a feature that allows customers of its Amazon Web Services offering to implement search capabilities to their websites. The technology behind CloudSearch is the same that Amazon uses on its retail site.
Access is billed based on the number of running search instances, anywhere from 12 cents to 98 cents per hour, with a 98 cent per gigabyte charge for the storage of search data. Running continuously, the search functionality could cost as little as $90 per month, and in some cases a cheaper alternative to Google's Site Search offering.
Google charges by the query on an annual basis. 20,000 queries a year will cost $100 annually, but this increases to $2,000 per year for 500,000 queries. For sites with a good deal of internal search traffic CloudSearch seems a more cost-effective option, although smaller sites will find Google Site Search a better deal.
"Amazon CloudSearch will have democratization effect as it offers features that have been out of reach for many customers", chief technology officer Werner Vogels says. "It will allow developers to improve functionality of their products, at lower costs with almost zero administration".
Amazon aims to make CloudSearch easy to implement and use. Vogels points out that setup is as simple as creating the search domain, uploading the data it would like to be searchable, and begin querying the database. Additional data can be uploaded through the AWS console, or by sending their own HTTP POST requests to the upload endpoint. Google uses a sitemap to control what is indexed through its search offering.
"You don't have to write your own indexing, query parsing, query processing, results handling, or any of that other stuff," AWS evangelist Jeff Barr explains. "You don't need to worry about running out of disk space or processing power, and you don't need to keep rewriting your code to add more features".
Of course, you need to be hosting your site on Amazon's cloud platform in order to take advantage of its search platform -- Google's solution allows you to maintain your own hosting. That said, two major AWS customers are already using CloudSearch in its applications, including photo-sharing site SmugMug and music site ex.fm.
"Each day, ex.fm users add more than a hundred thousand new song links to the platform", ex.fm chief technology officer Lucas Hrabovsky says. "With a small team of engineers, we can't afford to dedicate resources to manage our search infrastructure". Hrabovsky says the company has gotten positive feedback since the switch to CloudSearch and users note improved search speed and accuracy.